A major leak has partially shut down the kitchen at the Penobscot County Jail, forcing the jail to purchase meals and bring them in from outside at an added cost.
In addition, the jail’s only elevator and electronic control panel that operates the cell doors and intercom have both broken down over the past two weeks, which proved to be difficult repairs.
They’re the latest problems to come up at the Bangor facility that’s more than 160 years old. Penobscot County has set a 100-bed jail addition in motion in recent months.
“Our building is falling apart,” Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton told county commissioners on Tuesday.
The recent problems have forced the jail this week to house 59 inmates at other facilities, which comes at a cost. The jail had recently been boarding out a lower number of inmates, about 30-40, the sheriff said.
The county budgeted $950,000 for boarding this year, which represented a $300,000 increase over last year’s allowance for sending inmates elsewhere when there’s no room at the chronically overcrowded Bangor jail.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 145 inmates at the jail, a dozen fewer than the 157 it is licensed to hold, Morton said.
Finding parts for the 37-year-old elevator and control panel has been a major problem, the sheriff said.
A part needed to restore the control panel came from the Washington County Jail, which had saved a part from its old control panel when it replaced it a few years ago.
Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $100,000 to rebuild the elevator after Morton told them it had broken down multiple times in the past week.
The county has not yet determined the cost of replacing or upgrading the control panel. It has set aside $100,000 for repairs at the Bangor jail this year.
Morton called the kitchen closure “a catastrophic failure” of the aging facility. The sheriff said that local vendors have been helpful in providing meals, but he expects it will be costly. The jail’s food budget this year is $350,000.
The sheriff did not know Tuesday how long the kitchen repairs would take and when it would be fully operational again.
County Administrator Erika Honey said Tuesday that she would look into whether any of the $29.5 million in federal funds Penobscot County is receiving under the American Rescue Plan Act can be used on the repairs. Honey previously said the federal money could be used on renovations to the jail but not new construction. The county had explored using some of the American Rescue Plan money for the jail addition.
Commissioners last month hired a local firm to oversee plans for the possible 100-bed addition and to recommend how the former YMCA building, across Court Street from county offices and the jail, could be repurposed for office space.